Business trips | The new hybrid reality

The emergence of platforms such as Zoom During the pandemic means the end of traveling abroad for a business breakfast? Perhaps, according to experts.


Isabel Masset

Isabel Masset
Journalism

Business travelers have grown up during the pandemic. Little by little, some find their bags. Airlines confirm this: business flights are resuming, while the number of double vaccinations is increasing and the quarantine obligation is fading. But will the number of passengers be the same as in 2019 when the crisis appears, when the business community has proven that it can meet, attend conferences and conclude transactions through Zoom where groups ?

CEO Doug Parker told CNBC recently that the level of business travel activity for American Airlines is 44% of what it was before the pandemic. Air Canada has also been feeling revival since late spring. “The indications will be even greater after Labor Day,” said Lucy Gillimit, vice president and chief commercial officer of Air Canada. We shouldn’t expect it to be back to 100% before the end of the year, but I think we’ll have continued growth. In the US, business demand is more advanced than in Canada, where travel restrictions have been more flexible than here. ”

Habits have changed and companies have adapted to a new reality, but the master agrees.I Guillemette.

Photo by David Boyle, press archives

Lucy Guillemmet, Vice President General and Chief Commercial Officer, Air Canada

However, we can imagine a less crowded corridor between Montreal and Toronto in the future. “For short trips, that will change a bit, Lucy Guillemet thinks. Stays may be longer, and people may see two or three customers instead of one at a time. Companies are still eager to see their customers again.”

“The relationship with investors is at the core of my business, and truck sales are at the center of our teams’ work,” explains Isabelle Adje. Vice President, Investor Relations and Sustainability, The Lion Company (Electric Vehicles). Everyone desperately misses customer contact. We are ready to hit the road again when we are allowed to. There is a whole intangible part that people invest in. A trusting relationship is built through physical interactions. ”

However, video conferencing meetings are unlikely to be put into a drawer for our memory once the pandemic has passed, according to the testimony he has collected. Journalism.

Image provided by ISABELLE ADJAHI

Isabelle Adje, Vice President, Investor Relations and Sustainable Development, Lyon

Zoom It was very good, because we can meet three times as many investors. There is no longer a rural barrier. We can do USA, Europe and Asia on the same day.

Isabelle Adje, Vice President, Investor Relations and Sustainable Development, Lyon

As we see the dawn of a “new normal,” the investment community at large sees an agenda now made up of 56% virtual interactions and 44% in-person, according to a NASDAQ survey released in June. If they find it necessary to be in person in the first meetings, then face-to-face is less important for conferences, for example.

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Meetings Zoom Peter McNally, global director of the Third Bridge Group, told Bloomberg that business travel is not going away. Nonessential trips like the CEO’s one-way trip to Europe for lunch probably won’t be accepted. But the rest of the business trips will get better, especially as the economy recovers. ”

In October 2020, the CEO of United Airlines said he believed in a return to normalcy, but not before 2024. “The day a person loses a contract at the hands of a competitor who will move on, that is the last time they try to make a sale by Zoom “go ahead.

Mindsets change

Many companies are likely to choose a hybrid format for business relationships. “Now, we will be asking each time whether that is more effective in virtual reality or in person, estimates Anne-Marie Hubert, Managing Partner of Eastern Canada at EY. In the meetings Zoom, we can invite five more people, to give experience and training to a young employee, to the immigrant. There are so many possibilities with technology. ”

“We’ve all learned that we can do things by videoconferencing,” adds Stéphane Paquet, from Montreal International. But that doesn’t mean people won’t travel. ”

The CEO believes in a two-step comeback. “Once it’s safe, we’ll be on the plane for the first few months,” he says. She will be very busy during this period, because we have lost a year and a half in our person. After that, we’ll probably take fewer trips. But for people you don’t know, communication is essential. It is not true that in the meeting groups For 30 minutes, you develop a relationship the same way you take coffee in person. ”

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Montreal International insists, though: No air travel until it’s safe.

Photo of Marco Campanozzi, press archive

Stéphane Paquet, CEO of Montreal International

[La sécurité]This is the priority. The travel authorization process will be longer. Is your health at risk? What does insurance cover? Things will also cost more, as there may be fewer offers.

Stéphane Paquet, CEO of Montreal International

However, do companies want to invest as much in travel? “Mentalities are changing,” said Charles Lalumiere, president of Edge Future. People must justify their trip. Companies have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel during the pandemic. ”

According to the telepresence specialist, more and more organizations are equipping their premises with the latest video conferencing technology. “People are improving the experience Zoom And groups, says Charles Lalumiere. They work in rooms that allow for more dynamic presentations. Set them up like a TV to break the monotony. ”

While we must increasingly demonstrate a desire for carbon neutrality, perhaps the administration will consider reducing the number of flights to reach its goals. “More than 50% of investors are calling for a concrete 2050 plan to reduce emissions,” says Anne-Marie Hubert. Obviously we have to think about travel, transport fleet, buildings…”

“We have ways to reduce our footprint,” Isabelle Adje says. We were able to sell our electric cars during the pandemic. But investors need to see what we’re doing in a concrete way. However, measures that are as sustainable as possible are needed. ”

COVID-19 has accelerated thinking and encourages leaders to take advantage of the best of both worlds, Judge Annemarie Hubert. “A lot of people have spent a long time coming and going,” she says. However, some trips are more demanding, such as Montreal-Dallas. We’re wasting our week for six hours of relevant content. ”

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